Check your CV like a Careers Consultant
- What is the CV for?
CVs work best if they are tailored to specific jobs or types of work. A generic CV, that is intended to be used for any application, is not likely to work as well for you.
Before you start writing a CV, think about the type of work you are targeting and which information about your skills and experience those employers are likely to be most interested in. That will help you make an informed choice about how to write your CV and what information you need to highlight.
- The 10 second scan
Many employers tell us that they spend no more than 10 seconds on an initial scan of a CV. If you pass that scan test, they will read your CV, but if you don’t, there’s a chance they may never look at it again.
Put yourself in the shoes of a potential employer, thinking about the key things they are looking for, then skim read your CV (in 10 seconds) to get an overall impression and see what information jumps out. Better yet – ask a fried to do this scan test for you.
- Make sure you’ve at least covered the CV basics.
- The first page
This is your opportunity to make a good first impression and grab the reader’s attention during their 10 second scan. Order your sections according to what you think will be most relevant to the reader and use that first page wisely.
See “Format your CV to make it look more professional” to get some ideas about how to make a good impression through formatting.
- Long paragraphs
Even after the 10 second scan, people tend to skim-read CVs. Long paragraphs can work OK on a covering letter but can be off-putting on a CV. Present your information concisely in short paragraphs or bullet points. Be brutal in editing to remove any unnecessary words. There is no need for “Furthermore”, “Moreover”, “However”.
- Use of language
As a bullet-point style is often expected on a CV, you don’t need to write in proper sentences and can remove personal pronouns e.g. “I worked in a team to…” could be re-written as “Worked in a team to…”.
Starting your sentences with action verbs e.g. Planned, Developed, Delivered, can add energy to your CV.
- Are you listing duties or describing achievements?
When describing your work/employment/voluntary experience, unless the job role is something you believe the reader will never have encountered before, you don’t need to provide a list of duties e.g. the reader is likely to already know the duties of a Sales Assistant. Focus instead on telling them things they might not know about what you achieved during that work e.g. “Trained new members of staff; exceeded sales targets”.
If your role does require explanation, keep the list of duties brief, before going on to describe your achievements.
Providing context helps the reader e.g. “Presented at a large conference” could be more compelling if written as “Presented at a conference of 500 international delegates” or “Worked with groups of children” with context could be written as “Worked with children aged 5-10 in small groups of 4/5”.
Make sure the details are correct – spelling and grammar, professional-looking email address, dates –with any gaps in dates explained.
- The overall impression
Once you’ve gone through all of the steps above, do another 10 second scan and read it again thoroughly to make sure that it is effectively tailored to the type of work.